Wednesday 29 July 2020

Garden birding

I very nearly drove down to Porthgwarra Sunday evening to take advantage of some good sea watching conditions but doing the six hour drive alone put me off so it'll have to wait for later in August.

The Garden
Instead I sat watching the garden birds and in particular the second brood from local Robins. I have only seen two juveniles from this brood but only saw one from the first. One of the two spends nearly all day sitting in my garden just popping out when I put an offering out or water the garden to bring the worms out for him.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin
The Sparrows always entertain too and seem to be in the middle of a very good year locally.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow
Apart from watching the garden and a fair bit of Cricket I had a little walk around Wanstead yesterday where the highlight was a couple of young Kestrels and bumping into Nick for a good catch up as we walked around hoping for something in terms of early autumn migration which failed to materialise but I'm sure I'll pop over again soon. (Probably just after Nick has found something good)

The year list has stopped ticking but hopefully it'll get a little lift as things start to move south soon but until then there is always the garden to provide a small fix.

Sunday 26 July 2020

BBRC Work in progress

BBRC Published the latest work in progress report back in June and it shows the following.......

Firstly all records that are "Waiting for Information"

This includes
Grey Bellied Brents records going back to 2005
A Siberian Gull from 2012
Russian Peregrine Falcon records since 2017
Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat records dating back to 2003
and Desert Lesser Whitethroat records dating back to 2000

Then there's the "In circulation" file which includes (I've omitted this years IC's)

A north American Canada Goose from the Loch of Skene in December 2017 and a Cackling Goose in Scotland dating back to 2017 and another from 2000. Two Ross's Goose records dating back as far as 2011 in the Borders and one in Norfolk in 2012 

Whilst Falcated Duck has now been accepted onto the BOU list two sightings remain in circulation and they are the 2008 sighting on Anglesey and a Hampshire sighting in 2013

A Band-rumped Storm Petrel sighting off Porthgwarra in September 2018, a couple of Fea's Petrels from last year in Yorkshire, a Trindade Petrel again from Porthgwarra in 2018 and loads of Barolo Shearwater sightings going back to 1967 are still in circulation.

A Little Bittern at Ham Wall last year and two sightings from 2008 of North American Night Heron following acceptance of the 2017 bird.

Two Pallid Harriers are included from last year

The 2009 Pacific Golden Plover from Gibraltar Point, an Upland Sandpiper from Cornwall last year, the 2011 Sussex Long-Toed Stint, Hudsonian Dunlin reports from 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2017,
Islays Baird's Sandpiper from last year, the Somerset Semipalmated Sandpiper from 1992 and a Long-billed Dowitcher on the Isle of Man last year.

Baltic Gull from 2013 at Cley along with two other reports from 2016 and 2019.

An Oriental Turtle Dove record from Dumfries in 2016, several Pallid Swift records going back to 1975
and a Bee-eater record from Dorchester back in 1985.

The famous Lesser Kestrel in Yorkshire last year remains under discussion as expected along with a single Red-footed Falcon record from 2004 in Staffordhsire.

Two Turkestan Shrike sightings from last year on Shetland and the 2003 Outer Skerries bird plus a 
Balearic Woodchat Shrike dating back to 2018.

The Pied Crow of 2018-2019 (That I eventually went for the day it crossed the channel)

A Horned Lark from Scilly in 2001

Two Western Bonellis Warblers from 2004 (Barra) and 2019 (Cornwall) plus a Hume's Warbler in Lincs last year. An Orkney Iberian Chiffchaff in 2018 along with one from Durham last year and the Essex Sykes Warbler from 2002. Four Savi's Warblers dating back to 2003 and five Eastern Subalpine Warblers dating back to 2004 which of course is more relevant following the recent split.

A 1959 Northern Treecreeper  at Spurn remarkably remains in circulation and is by far the oldest outstanding record in circulation along with a 2016 Lincs report that remains in this category.

A Black-throated Thrush from Shetland last year has yet to get a yes or no whilst the Isle of May Siberian Stonechat last year along with the Isle of Wight record also sit unanswered.

A Welsh Desert Wheatear from last year remains undecided along with the only bird I'm waiting on which is the Eastern Black-eared Wheatear at Fluke Hall Lancs are both waiting on the committee.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear that remains in circulation with the committee

Wagtails clearly cause some debate and no fewer than six are still in circulation with the oldest being 2012 and it's a  Citrine Wagtail.

Unsurprisingly the Paddyfield Pipit from Sennen last year remains in circulation along with last years Nethybridge Red-throated Pipit.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll from 2018 at Unst along with the Bressay Coues's of last year
A couple of the many Shetland sightings of Two-barred Crossbill are still pending
and lastly Caithness makes the list again with a Black-headed Bunting from 2018

We then move to the recently Not Proven records which include the following to name just a few of the many........

Several North American Canada Geese all from last years sightings and a Cackling Goose from 2001 on Fair Isle. A 1991 Submission of Falcated Duck has been rejected as not proven in Devon and 
A Fudge Duck Near Orford last year was rejected, a 2008 submission for White-billed Diver in Argyll met the same fate.

Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatross submissions from last year were not proven and these relate to the Isle of Lewis and off the Scillonian 111 respectively.

Four Barolo Shearwater submissions were rejected and a Black Stork over Eltham Palace last year was also rejected as not proven.

A sighting of Brown Booby at sea off Edinburgh last year was rejected and a 2017 Pallid Harrier in Yorkshire was deemed as not proven too whilst two Eastern Black Kites in the Scottish Isles in 2018 were also rejected.

A Pacific Golden Plover at Minsmere last September was rejected along with a Hudsonian Whimbrel on South Uist in 2017. Last years report of Least Sandpiper in Cleveland was also confined to the "not proved" file.

Two submissions of Wilsons Snipe on Scilly in October 2018 were rejected whilst a third was accepted over the same period. (Makes you wander what was wrong with the first two reports)

Ivory Gull on Farne last year was rejected as not proven as was the June Laughing Gull at Portland
along and an American Herring Gull in Pembrokeshire last year along with  a Baltic Gull near Bempton in 2011 which was finally moved to the not proven bin along with more recent submissions from Devon and Lincs whilst a Gull-billed Tern submission at Fairburn Ings last year was also moved to NP.

South Polar Skua finally came off the IC list and is now not proven dating back to 1996 at Dawlish Warren. A Snowy Owl submission from the Highlands in April last year dropped into the NP box and a Swalecliffe Pallid Swift submission from November 2018 along with  a Herefordshire Roller from June last year also dropped to NP status.

Saker Falcon in Lincolnshire last March and two Gyr Falcons from Shetland and Lancs last February dropped out as did a Northern Long-tailed Tit at Southrepps Norfolk which failed to convince
as did a Hume's Warbler on Fetlar last October.

Iberian Chiffchaff took a hit with the King George Res. submission and the Seaton GP Kent one being rejected along with one at Hanningfield in Essex and painfully for me the Pantmaenog Forest bird that I visited.

Iberian Or not as the case may be

As you'd expect Booted and Sykes feature as do Savi's and Subalpine Warblers.

Northern Treecreeper saw two submissions from last year dropped and one dating back to 2010 relating to a bird in Orfordness Suffolk.

A Central European Ring Ouzel was rejected from Gloucestshire last year and two recent Thrush Nightingales got the chop.

Collared Flycatcher is another bird that can be tricky to prove and it's no surprise to see three hit the not proven list along with a single Taiga Flycatcher submission from last year.

An Isabelline Wheatear failed to find enough supporting evidence to get accepted  as did the  submission of a Seebohms Wheatear on Stockholm last year.

A Black-bellied Dipper in Yorkshire failed to satisfy the committee and as with the IC status Wagtails again feature in the not proven list with Ashy-headed, Black-headed and Eastern Yellow all featuring.

Tawny, Buff-breasted and Red-throated Pipits all had submissions drop into the needed more evidence group and as you'd expect Arctic Redpolls caused issue with a single example of Coues's and Hornemann's failing to make the confirmed list.

Three of the many Two-barred Crossbills didn't have enough supporting evidence (all about the photo these days) 

A Black-headed Bunting in the Highlands and Red-breasted Grosbeak submitted three weeks after the last sighting of the Scilly bird but again without the supporting evidence make up the last of the records that are defined as NOT PROVEN.

I enjoyed looking at these updates and putting the summary together helped me take in the info so I thought it worth the blog post but you can access the actual Work in progress file through the BBRC website too.

Friday 17 July 2020

Bearded Vulture in the Peak District

I finally gave in and went for the Vulture today. A three hour drive to the Peak District and a two and half hour walk followed by a five hour wait and I finally saw the massive beast fly over Lost Lad. After a few minutes to celebrate and whilst I waited for my socks to dry (beware the big holes full of water under the grass) I left for the long walk back and the long drive home. If you'r going be prepared for a very long walk of around five miles from Mortimer Road to Lost Lad. I understand it roosted again on the cliffs tonight so if walking from Mortimer Road look out for the fence post that marks the point to turn right and avoid coming in from the cliff edge side where the bird roosts.

A great bird but I reckon I walked around twenty kilometres in all today and would suggest you park at Strines and walk up the steep hill to Back Tor (around one and a half miles) From here you can walk to the roost site if its roosting but that's another two miles down the valley and up the other side and this is very steep. The bird seems to give at least one good fly past Lost Lad each day and for me two minutes of it flying are better than two hours of it sat on the rocks.

Am I pleased I saw it?.YES
Would I do it again?....NO! ( I might reflect differently in a couple of days when my legs work again)

Other birds seen
One Hobby
One Merlin
Two Buzzards
Two Kestrels
Five Raven
Three Red Grouse
Hundreds of Meadow Pipits
some Gulls

I don't remember ever visiting the Peak district before as holidays are usually at coastal venues and I was struck by the size of the area and how lifeless it is. Grouse moors are all around as the private estates merge with the national park and it really is a wet bog of a place where you step from the footpath at your peril. It would be nice to see a tree or a bush now and again as you walk the footpath with the only reward another view of miles of hills as you get around the next corner.

The 4am start of the 6.5km walk up from Mortimer Road
More of the footpath leading up the first couple of kilometres
This section seems to go on forever

Loads of these to be seen but very little else
A couple of miles in and I could see my destination in the distance (Back Tor top centre)
About half way now and the sandy path changes to these huge flagstones through miles of nothing
A sign of encouragement hardly required as there is only one path
Miles and miles 
Nearly there
Back Tor and the guys that chose the closer route from Strines
Strange cloud rainbow thing going on
Oh wait I'm not there yet...looks like Lost Lad gives a better view so I'm off again
And now I'm finally able to sit and scan for the target
Five hours scanning this
And then there it is coming over the ridge in the distance
The beast approaches and at this point I put down the camera to enjoy the fly past fully
And then it was gone
Is this hobby mad?  Absolutely
Do I enjoy it?          Absolutely but this one really tests the sanity of the hobby although the prize is a bit special if you can endure the walk and the wait.

I'm now left wondering if the Vulture will be accepted by the BOURC
What we know is that this bird is a wild bird bred in the wild and it's thought it's parents could be wild bred birds but somewhere in it's lineage is the human touch of reintroduction. The Alps team are happy that their reintroduced population is self supporting so maybe that could play a part and I believe the Dutch have accepted birds from this programme so I guess these will be factors that help our guys when they come to decide. I know I'm a bigger champion for it's acceptance now I've seen it.

What a day and what a bird and the memory will live long within me for sure.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Caspian Tern at Frampton Marsh RSPB

An afternoon trip to Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire delivered the goods today. As I walked from the car park towards the visitor centre a volunteer kindly gave me the thumbs up that the Caspian Tern was still showing well and sure enough I was scoping it seconds later. I decided to walk around the back to get a closer view and enjoyed a few Corn Buntings, Skylarks and Sedge Warblers on route.

Scoping the Tern I found seven Spoonbill and whilst the Tern rested I started to scan the vast number of waders on offer that Included many Black-tailed Godwits, several Knot and a good number of Ruff.

Caspian Tern
A few Dunlin had a tiny Little Stint for company and at the end of the spit I found a nice adult Curlew Sandpiper. Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Avocet, Common and Green Sandpiper made up the best of the rest but I couldn't find the reported Wood Sand. The Black-necked Grebes have left the nest and I'm told that three chicks survive but I failed to find them among the thick vegetation that now surrounds the water.

Sedge Warbler
A very white winged House Sparrow in the garden today

My year list now sits at 233

Saturday 11 July 2020

Dipped the Yelkouan Shearwater at Portland

I drove down to Portland yesterday morning arriving at 7am planning a full day at this beautiful place and hoping to connect with the remarkable Shearwater that has been very well photographed over the last few days and stands a real chance of acceptance as a Yelkouan and not something I ever thought would be twitchable. I sat a good distance from the small gathering and tried alone to pick out the target but found only Balearic and Manx among the fifty odd birds rafting with the large gull flock.

I moved back towards the gathering to check nobody had the bird and we all agreed on a likely candidate sat on the sea but we really needed the bird to fly to check further. After a while the gull flock was disturbed by a boat approaching and took flight, the shearwaters followed but we managed to miss the bird we'd been waiting for. Later in the morning another flying group appeared to hold the Yelkouan and displayed all the attributes expected but it was only seen by three of us and we all decided we just couldn't be sure enough to call it. I relocated in an effort to find the group again but they were nowhere to be seen and later the Balearics gathered again but in smaller numbers so I'm left thinking I may have seen the bird but in no way did I see anything I could say with certainty  was a Yelkouan Shearwater so it remains on the dipped list. Interestingly it was reported by somebody else as lost to view at the Obelisk mid morning....our sighting was the other side of the Obelisk mid morning so I guess somebody else saw the same bird and had more confidence to call it although the majority of the thirty or so on site had not seen it or didn't know they'd seen it.

Balearic Shearwater
Scanning the Shearwaters 
Just a great place to sit and enjoy doing nothing
Guillemot and Razorbill flew up and down all day and occasionally the Gannets came in to fish. Fulmars glided along the shoreline and Shag was noted on the water at times. A single Whimbrel flew over the Bill early in the day and a small flock of Common Scoter flew west at lunchtime. A single Med Gull and a few Rock Pipits the only other birds of note.

At sea a Tui cruise ship is docked and stands as a reminder to the pandemic we still face and also of note was an RAF A400 Airbus which spent the day in what appeared a training routine overhead.

The A400 Airbus
The sad site of a docked cruise ship

Portland remains one of my favourite places to visit even if I missed the target bird.

Year list now 230

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Dipped the Sooty Tern at Sizewell

This morning I was sat at home pondering over driving to Portland for the very probable Yelkouan Shearwater that's been reported and seems to be backed up by decent images which should help it get accepted. As I had just convinced myself to give it a go news came through of a Sooty Tern at Sizewell that had settled twice on the far rig and I thought this looked like a pattern developing and a real  chance of me seeing the bird so I set of to Suffolk instead of Dorset saving me around 140 miles in the round trip.  I arrived about half an hour after the bird had flown south but I assumed the bird would return as before to rest up on the rig with the breeding Kittiwakes. After three hours and with no sign of the bird the small crowd had all but dispersed so I decided to leave too and save my life tick for another day.

The small crowd at Sizewell
I picked up a year tick with two Whimbrel flying over calling and enjoyed watching a pair of Peregrine around the power station but otherwise the highlight was a nice long chat with a Kent birder named Raphael as we swapped stories of more successful days out. I find myself still contemplating a trip to Dorset in the morning though but lets see how the evening works out first.

Year list now 228

Tuesday 7 July 2020

A relaxing morning at Oare marsh in Kent

Dad text to ask if I fancied meeting him at Oare marsh today and of course I agreed so I set off at 5am this morning and enjoyed a cracking morning with the Jims doing what we like to do.

We were of course hoping to connect with the Bonaparte's Gull that had returned over a month ago but had been difficult to find until this weekend when it appeared to settle back into a routine of feeding on the mud by the slipway and resting on east flood. We first saw this bird back in 2013 and I think we have seen it every year since. I scanned the gulls on the mud for two hours picking up a bonus year tick with a Little Tern coming in to the estuary to feed for a few minutes before flying back out. The gull wasn't showing so I took a walk down the road to meet up with the Jims.

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit
On the way down I found a smart family party of Bearded Tits and grabbed a few images before walking around the marsh scanning the vast variety of birds on offer which included Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet, Dunlin, Blackwit and Oystercatcher. A couple of Turtle Dove sat on the wires in the distance but could be heard calling and the place is alive with the calls of Whitethroat, Sedge, Reed and Cetti's Warblers. As we reached the hide at the far end another birder was scoping and he'd seen the Bonaparte's Gull so we joined him and very quickly had the bird in view for a seventh year running. It's very smart in full summer plumage and once you have your eye in is quite obvious to pick out among the many Blackheads.

Bonaparte's Gull

A lovely six hours enjoying the delights of Oare marsh again and a joy to be out and about again.

Year list 227

Oare marsh at 5.30am this morning